The 6th February 2007 began as an ordinary day, but ended up anything but ordinary due to the discovery of blind yearling baby rhino in the Park forest about 3 kms. from our Headquarters. The elephant Keepers, who were out in the forest as usual with their charges, heard the rhino crying, and went to investigate. He was running around aimlessly, there being no sign of his mother. The KWS Rhino Unit was summonsed, and together they and our Keepers monitored the little rhino until dusk from a good distance so as not to disturb him or the possibility of his mother returning, and when there was still no sign of the mother, something had to be done to spare him from being taken by predators during the night. By calling him with the rhino “come” sound (a soft exhalation of breath), he followed the Elephant Keepers and KWS Rangers for the 3 kms until near the Trust buildings, when he spooked at the strange sounds, blindly charging all and sundry and almost downing Daphne in the process who had to resort to diving into a nearby bush! By now it was quite obvious that he was completely blind in both eyes, for both his eyes were opaque. He was then physically overpowered, which took all the strength of about l0 men and although just a year old, he could certainly pack a punch and was immensely powerful. With legs tied he was then carried on the elephant Rescue Tarpaulin to a vacant stable, where he was released, and proceeded to almost demolish the timbers of the stable. Apart from his eyes, he was in good physical condition, so he could not have been without his mother for long. (Her disappearance and ultimate fate still remains a mystery.)
We named the little rhino “Maxwell”, "Max" for short, which somehow seemed to suit him. For three full days, no-one could set foot in his stable, he was so wild and fierce, but he soon understood that milk and water was available at the stable door. It being essential that he undergo a course of injectable antibiotic to forestall problems brought about by trauma and shock, only Robert Carr-Hartley was courageous enough to risk going in, and having restrained the sharp end of the rhino by hanging onto his head, some reinforcements then followed to enable Robert to administer the antibiotic! For the next three days, the same process had to be repeated, and everyone heaved a sigh of relief when it was over. By now, however, the little rhino had calmed down sufficiently to enable one of the braver Keepers to venture in with him, and since then he has been very amenable, as long as not suddenly startled, enjoying being fondled on the belly and head, as do all rhinos. The next challenge was to move him into Magnum’s vacant Stockade, which abuts that of Shida and this was accomplished without too much difficulty.
An assessment of the cause of Max’s blindness has revealed that he is suffering from bilateral cataracts, so surgical intervention to remove the cataracts is planned for Wednesday 21st March, when Dieter Rottcher returns from Germany. Dieter will oversee the anesthetic being extremely experienced in this field whilst the eye surgery will be undertaken by one of Kenya’s top Eye Specialists, Dr. Schwendemann. We keep our fingers crossed that we will be able to restore at least some vision to little Max, for a bull rhino has to fight for territory and rank, and must be able to see his opponent.
Towards the end of the month we decided to try and take him out for a short spell, which he enjoyed immensely, but when it came time to return him to the Stockade, this proved very difficult and he was having none of it! Yet again he had to be physically carried back, something to which he strongly objected! Since then, we have not dared let him out again, but should he regain some vision, this will follow.
Another unusual occurrence with Max was following a dose for worms, huge nodules erupted on his skin, and a cyst-like piece of tissue eventually emerged leaving a clean hole. This must be yet another of those curious parasites specific to this ancient species, for no-one has seen anything like it before!